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Finding the Balance

My work in many ways straddles a number of different spheres. (Assuming one can straddle a sphere. Or did I just mix my metaphors?)

Let's put to one side for a moment the fact a surprisingly large part of my life remains spent writing about boxing. i still see myself primarily as a writer on science and environmental issues, and as I approach my mid-forties, I find myself examining exactly where I stand, from a career perspective. This self-reflection reached a recent zenith when I attended the recent Science Online conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It didn't help that I was feeling unwell, and thus not able to integrate the way I wanted. Or that my impending middle age has anyway stimulated the first stirrings of a midlife crisis and the associated insecurities that come as part of that particular package. But as I looked around the room, looked at the speakers, talked with fellow attendees, and marveled at their collective knowledge, wisdom and skill sets, I couldn't help but feel that in many ways I am a participant in a medium I am so far from mastering.

There are some things I think I do well. I am, by nature, a long-form writer in a short-form world. I am proud of my books. I enjoy writing long articles for, for example, the Washington Post Magazine. My enjoyment of these particular forms of media is, I think, a function of the fact that they provide me with the room to explore language and also to engage in nuance. At heart, I'm a nuanced kinda guy.

And yet, conversely, I am' an activist at heart, which has long caused a kind of internal tug-of-war. It finds greatest present manifestation in my blogging work for Discovery Channel News, and in particular on those occasions when I blog on climate issues. On the one hand, I want to be journalistically responsible; on the other hand, it would be journalistically irresponsible to treat skeptics and deniers of climate change with the same weight as those who acknowledge the truth on this particular subject. There is doubt and uncertainty around the margins; but it is true that climate change is occurring, and it is true that there are forces arrayed to try and muddy the waters and convince people that it is not occurring. To act as if that were not the case, as if for example the Heartland Institute was not actively trying to subvert knowledge and awareness of climate change, and as if climate change were not a reality, would be wrong.

And yet at times I have to admit that there is a harshness in my tone, a condescension in my vocabulary. While there is nothing I - or anyone - can write that can convince a true skeptic or denier, there is nonetheless at times a better way for me to approach some of my blogging on this issue. A 600 word limit confines my natural expressionist instincts, but it need not do so; on other topics, I am frequently very happy with what I write. I feel that this is an area of my work where I need to apply greater effort, work more determinedly to improve, to strike a better balance between advocacy and explanation. I think that at times my blogging is not worthy of some of my other work.

If and when I bring that up to a higher standard, then perhaps I can feel more able to hold my head up high in the company of those I wold like to consider my peers.
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